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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, October 15, 2017 1:00 am

GOP Senate rivals loyal to Trump

BRIAN FRANCISCO and NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

Two rivals for the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat from Indiana continue to solidly support President Donald Trump, even as a new poll shows Trump's approval rating in Indiana has slipped.

“I will always stand with our President, Vice President, and the flag that unites our country,” Rep. Luke Messer, R-4th, said in a campaign email Monday, a day after Vice President Mike Pence left an Indianapolis Colts game because some players for the opposing San Francisco 49ers knelt during the national anthem.

Asked the same day about Trump's legislative agenda being advanced by the House but stalled by Republican battles in the Senate, Rep. Todd Rokita, R-4th, said “senators who have egos bigger than God is the problem and not working to solve the real problems of this country, and that's what I intend to help correct when I get there.”

Rokita also said in an interview with The Journal Gazette: “The people know the game, and Trump is on their side. ... If there is some kind of standoff, I think you always want to be on the people's side, and Trump, Pence and I'll add myself in there, Todd Rokita, are on the people's side.”

But the results of a Morning Consult survey released Tuesday showed Trump's approval rating among Indiana registered votes declined from 55.3 percent in January, when he took office, to 49.8 percent in September. His disapproval rating in the state rose from 33.1 percent to 44.9 percent in the same period.

Nationwide, the poll of 472,000 registered voters by Morning Consult, a technology and media company, found 43 percent approved of Trump and 52 percent disapproved of him as of Sept. 26. In January, 49 percent approved of him and 39 percent had disapproved.

Rokita, Messer and four other announced candidates seek the 2018 Republican nomination to face Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., in next year's general election.

Democrat taking on Walorski

A former health industry executive from South Bend announced Tuesday he will seek the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House seat representing northern Indiana's 2nd Congressional District, according to media reports.

Mel Hall becomes the first Democrat to announce plans to run next year for the seat of Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski, who was first elected in 2012.

Hall, 64, was a United Methodist minister who in the 1990s joined Press Ganey, a firm that surveys hospital patients on the care they receive, according to the South Bend Tribune. Hall became chief executive officer in 2001 and left in 2012 to start a health care staffing firm in Nashville, Tennessee, the newspaper reported.

Hall, who grew up on a farm in Grant County, returned to South Bend this summer after the sale of his company, according to the Tribune. The 2nd District consists of eight counties in northern Indiana and parts of two others, including portions of Kosciusko County.

State treasurer seeks re-election

State Treasurer Kelly Mitchell announced Thursday that she will seek re-election next year.

Mitchell, a Republican, was elected to a four-year term in 2014. She said her accomplishments as state treasurer include adding more than 105,000 accounts and reducing fees for College Choice 529 education savings plans; overseeing the expansion of text-to-911 services; and creating the Community Resource Funding program to increase funding options available to local governments through the Indiana Bond Bank.

Mitchell is a former Cass County commissioner who lives in Indianapolis. She was director of the state treasurer's office local government investment pool before being elected treasurer.

The state Republican and Democratic parties will nominate candidates for treasurer, auditor and secretary of state at conventions next June.

Labor unions like Democrat in 9th

Fifteen labor unions statewide have endorsed Liz Watson for Indiana's 9th District, which includes Bloomington and south central Indiana. Watson is a labor and employment attorney.

“I am honored to receive these endorsements from hardworking men and women in Indiana's unions. We know that when Indiana unions are strong, Indiana families are strong,” Watson said in a statement.

Unions supporting Watson include International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 481, 16, 725 and 369; International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 91; Communications Workers of America, District 4; Indiana Chapter of Unite Here Local 23; United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 700; International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rain and Transportation Workers; Indiana Laborers District Council and Affiliated Locals; Indiana State Pipe Trades Association; Transportation Workers Union Illinois/Indiana State Conference; and the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees.

Program explains redistricting

The Fort Wayne Area League of Women Voters will host a free program Wednesday on redistricting. The session is at 7 p.m. at Allen County Public Library downtown.

Redistricting is the drawing of boundaries for voting districts in federal, state and local elections. The next round of redistricting will happen after the 2020 census. District lines are currently drawn by the Indiana General Assembly, which lets the majority party have the final say in how districts are configured.

The League of Women Voters has joined with Common Cause and other state groups and politicians to form the Coalition for Independent Redistricting. The coalition works to draft legislation to appoint an independent commission to draw district lines.

Dave Gong of the Journal Gazette contributed to this report.

To reach Political Notebook by email, contact Brian Francisco at bfrancisco@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. An expanded Political Notebook can be found as a daily blog at www.journalgazette.net/politicalnotebook.